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US sanctions Chinese tech firm for doing business with 'illegitimate Maduro regime' in Venezuela

US sanctions Chinese tech firm for doing business with 'illegitimate Maduro regime' in Venezuela
The US has hit Chinese tech company China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation with "Venezuela-related sanctions," according to the Treasury Department, which issued a license authorizing a winddown of transactions.

The Treasury announced the new sanctions on Monday, without specifying what provoked the measures on the state-owned enterprise. CEIEC trades in a high volume of electronics, including equipment used for military and construction purposes.

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"The illegitimate Maduro regime's reliance on entities like CEIEC to advance its authoritarian agenda further illustrates the regime's prioritization of power over democratic values and processes," US Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in relation to the restrictions.

According to the statement, CEIEC provided software, training, and technical expertise to Caracas, which "was then used against the people of Venezuela."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in on Twitter, scolding CEIEC for “enabling the Maduro regime’s efforts to undermine democracy in Venezuela.”

The Trump administration has been issuing rapid-fire sanctions in what appear to be its last months in power. Last week, the State Department sanctioned four Chinese and Russian companies for supposedly supporting Iran's missile program. Chengdu Best New Materials Co. Ltd and Zibo Elim Trade Co. Ltd in China, as well as Nilco Group and Joint Stock Company Elecon in Russia were accused of "transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran's missile program."

Special envoy to Iran and Venezuela Elliot Abrams has urged Joe Biden, who has proclaimed himself the next president, and his future administration to keep up the "maximum pressure" on Iran.

The sanctions may be seen as a message for China, which has resumed accepting direct oil shipments from Venezuela after officially pausing trade for over a year following the US’ imposition of stricter sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

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In the meantime, the regime change strategy for Venezuela appears to have declined in importance for the Trump administration after its pick for Maduro’s replacement, Juan Guaido, repeatedly failed to seize power despite Washington’s backing. Even Abrams, previously appointed special envoy to Venezuela, has seen his remit expanded more to Iran, towards which the US has been acting more aggressive of late.

However, the State Department recently demanded from Caracas the return of the ‘Citgo 6’, six US oil executives sentenced to prison on corruption charges, and Maduro fingered Washington among those responsible for a failed mercenary raid earlier this year. The Trump administration had just a few months earlier put a $15 million bounty on his head, a ‘reward’ for information that could be used to arrest Maduro on ‘narco-terrorism’ charges.

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